Strengthen Your “Critical Connections”

Research has shown that people perform better if they take time to create checklists that break their work down into necessary tasks. Here is an approach we recommend. Make a list of those individuals whom you count on you in order to do your work well and the individuals who count on you in order to do their work well. Think of these people as your “Critical Connections.” Strengthening your relationship with them is, in addition to making checklists, another key to achieving excellence in your work.

With each Critical Connection you should strive to develop a “Rational Connection” and an “Emotional Connection.” A Rational Connection is a “meeting of the minds” in terms of what has to be done by whom and what date it needs to be completed by. Frequently, mistakes are made when one individual presumes a meeting of the minds when in reality it doesn’t exist. An Emotional Connection is how you feel about an individual and how they feel about you. How we feel about people has a impact on trust and cooperation. Research has shown that Emotional Connections affect the amount of effort people put in their work up to four times as much as Rational Connections.

Here’s a two-part process you can use to be intentional about strengthening your working relationship with these individuals. First, periodically sit down with each Critical Connection and explain your W3 task list. A W3 task list describes what the task is, who is responsible for a specific task, and when it must be completed. It looks like this.

WHAT                   WHO     WHEN
Marketing Plan        Dave       1/1
Rights Agreement    Daisy     1/15
Ship Books             Sandy     1/30

After you share your W3 task list, ask each Critical Connection to tell you “what’s right, what’s wrong and what’s missing” on your W3 task list. Work through any differences until you reach agreement. You might even consider confirming what you agreed upon in an email to each Critical Connection. This practice will help you establish a Rational Connection with each Critical Connection.

You might think of Emotional Connections as being established when you interact with your Critical Connections as human beings (as opposed to the task interactions we have where we interact with individuals as “human doings”). We recommend having lunch or coffee periodically with your Critical Connections. Ask them questions that are unrelated to work such as where did they grow up, what are their interests outside of work, what’s their favorite movie or what kind of music do they like. Look for ways to help them in their work and life outside of work.

By developing both Rational Connections and Emotional Connections with each of your Critical Connections, you will be more effective at work and, as you get to know your Critical Connections better, you’ll enjoy your time at work even more.

(Note: Jason Pankau and I wrote the foregoing as a guest post for Jim Thomason’s blog entitled “The Business of People.”

Michael Lee Stallard and Jason Pankau are co-authors of Fired Up or Burned Out. Michael is president of E Pluribus Partners, a leadership training firm. He writes about leadership and employee engagement at his award-winning blog.  Jason is president of Life Spring Network, a Christian discipleship and leadership training ministry.

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